Bassetlaw councillor defends criticisms over empty properties

BASSETLAW councillor Alan Rhodes faced tough questioning at this month’s full council meeting over the number of empty homes in the district.

Liberal Democrat campaign manager asked Coun Rhodes at last Thursday’s meeting what he is doing about ‘the blight’ of empty properties in Bassetlaw.

Mr Duveen said that according to the Empty Houses Agency, there were 1,898 empty homes in the district in 2010 - rising to 2,013 in 2011.

He called for action and said owners should be contacted and encouraged to renovate their properties with help from the authority to bring them back into use.

“When will the council begin to turn their fine words into actions, and start turning empty houses into family homes?” he said.

Coun Rhodes, portfolio member for housing, disputed the rise of 115 properties and said the figure the council focused on was the number of homes empty for six months or more - which equated to a rise of 41 between 2010-2011.

He said: “The vast majority of the increase was within the private sector which clearly reflects the economic climate we are currently living and working within.”

“However this authority is addressing this very difficult and national situation, we are working partners and private sector landlords.”

“This includes initiatives in leasing back private sector houses.”

He added: “It would be wrong to pretend that this will be an easy journey.”

“The reasons for properties to be empty are many and varied, but this council will not walk away from its responsibilities and is committed to achieving the target we set ourselves in our Empty Homes Strategy.”

Coun Rhodes also gave his assurance at the meeting that all tenants will be balloted over any proposed changes to housing management arrangements with A1 Housing.

He added that an independent person would be appointed to ensure tenants have ‘proper advice and guidance’ through the ballot process.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Duveen said Coun Rhodes seemed ‘content’ with adopting the same policy which has ‘failed to deliver’ in turning empty houses into homes.

“Why aren’t the council making use of their powers to compulsory purchase these (empty) properties and use them to get people off the Council House Waiting List?” he said.

“Why isn’t the council being more pro-active to help owners of empty properties renovate and get them back to use?”